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Archive for the ‘movies and television’ Category

Thoughts on the Oscars

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Totally agree with Key & Peele’s (transmitted through as William Sherman and Marshwan Lynch) take on the Oscars.

Shouldn’t those films nominated for best director be automatically nominated for best picture? And if there are ten slots for best picture, shouldn’t there be ten films and not just eight?

For me the whole process of how the Oscars are selected is screwed-up. Many members of the “Academy” don’t even bother to watch all the films that are nominated, often picking films based on some personal agenda, political or otherwise.

I think it’s all bullshit. This is why I stopped watching the Oscars in the first place.

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Written by niraj

February 22nd, 2015 at 9:30 am

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Justified: More Then a Crime Drama

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The Federalist has written a great post about one of my favorite television shows, Justified. It talks about the show’s literary qualities, that it’s just not some hardboiled crime drama set in the backwoods of Kentucky, but has “novelistic” intentions and philosophical undercurrents.

The show is filled with multiple arcs and plots, both small are large, but the most overarching theme is the conflict between Raylan Givens, titular lawman, complete with Marshall’s badge and ten-gallon hat; and Boyd Crowder, the villain, who is both ruthless and charming. Both are mirrors of each other.

…Boyd is no more a villain than Raylan is a hero; each man is a kind of shadow of the other, ill-suited to their assigned roles and unfit for the wider world. Cold and remorseless, justified in all his killings, Raylan is knotted up with anger and violence. His moral conscience amounts to allying himself with the law, though he ignores it when it’s convenient and flouts it openly to protect an ex-wife he loves but refuses to be with.

By contrast, Boyd exudes a kind of joie de vivre amid his many depredations while betraying a moral sensitivity far more developed than Raylan’s. He does wrong but doesn’t try to justify it to his conscience.

Raylan is not really a likable character. He’s rough around the edge, a bit of an outlaw who brandishes his own brand of justice: the kind where you shoot first and ask questions later. The man is filled with moral ambiguity from top to bottom. Even his cowboy hat—neither white or black, but beige – describes the man as an unlikable anti-hero. He has no friends or family to speak of except an estranged ex-wife. The only thing he has – and the only thing he really needs – is his job and his unyielding quest to put Boyd Crowder behind bars for good.

Boyd Crowder, murdering thug that he is, seems more likable than Raylan ever hopes to be. Smart, charming, Boyd is keen on maintaining relationships while Raylan is not. Oddly bookish, Boyd likes to talk in long-winded paragraphs, each like a soliloquy, like he’s a character from a Shakespeare play. And unlike Raylan, Boyd accepts who he is. He has a code, but there’s no moral ambiguity to him. And let’s admit it: We all like Boyd.

That we feel this way about the main characters proves to me how good Justified really is.

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Written by niraj

February 17th, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer Thoughts

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The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out. Everybody – and their mother and grandmother – has seen it.

It looks awesome. Great combination of old and new, where it came from and where it’s going. It contains John Williams iconic score, of course, and whenever I hear it, it never fails to send a tingle up and down my spine.

I see there’s a new light saber, which I’m sure will makes many Star Wars fanboys (and fangirls) quite upset. I say get over it. In order for Star Wars to survive as a franchise, it must evolve. Sticking to the past is a sure path to extinction.

Can’t wait to see it!

Unfortunately, it won’t be released until December 2015, eschewing a traditional summer release. Great! I’ll be tortured till then.

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Written by niraj

December 9th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Review: Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded

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During the 1970s and 1980s, cocaine supplanted marijuana as the recreation drug of choice, turning the idyllic seaside town of Miami into a hub of decadence, crime, and violence. The cocaine trade was big business, attracting all sorts of sordid characters: Columbians, who supplied it; Cubans, the foot soldiers; and a motley crew of smugglers and hustlers who moved it all around. They called themselves (or were so dubbed, no one really knows for sure), the Cocaine Cowboys. They’re all subjects of a brilliant and illuminating documentary: a gripping story about how a group of criminals fed America’s growing fondness for cocaine, their rise and fall.

The Cocaine Cowboys came up with some ingenious ways to smuggle cocaine into the United States, often being one step ahead of law enforcement. They became fabulously wealthy in the process, creating an economic boom. But the city of Miami, and its helpless residents, paid a heavy price. Crime went up drastically as drug gangs viciously and brazenly fought each other in the streets for market share. The media started calling Miami the crime capital of the United States. Residents and tourists were fleeing the city in droves.

Aside from Miami looking like Al Capone’s Chicago, things were no doubt good for the Cocaine Cowboys, but like all good things, it came to an end. Hubris—and greed—played its part, of course; an after years of bumbling, law enforcement got its act together, and aided by the federal government, forced the cocaine business out of Miami. And those Cocaine Cowboys not already killed by the police, or their rivals, ended up in jail.

One question the documentary answers is where did all the money go? So much money was pouring in from the cocaine trade—in the billions—that an entire banking system sprouted up just to handle all it all, turning Miami into a center of narco-finance. Much of the money was laundered into legitimate businesses, mostly real estate. Much of modern Miami, as currently know it, its downtown, South Beach, and countless beachfront properties were financed by fortunes made from cocaine.

The story of the Cocaine Cowboys is told mostly by the participants themselves, through candid interviews, interspersed with news footage and grisly photographs, they tell a gripping story of the rise and fall of the cocaine trade in Miami.

One of the most chilling interviews is from a former hitman named Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, who worked for Griselda Blanco, a ruthless female gangster known for her murderous ways. Rivi, speaking from jail where he’s serving several life sentences, talks about his murders in a straightforward and matter-of-fact manner, devoid of any emotion or remorse whatsoever: a stone-cold killer. Rivi is one of many characters who make this documentary such a compelling watch.

Though the main focus of this documentary are smugglers and thugs, law enforcement gets to tell its side. They, too, talk, candidly about how hapless they were in fighting the drug gangs, hampered by poor to non-existent resources to widespread corruption.

If this documentary teaches us anything, it’s the futility of America’s war on drug. Law enforcement may have shut down the drug trade in Miami, but it just simply moved elsewhere. These days most cocaine flows through Mexico. The violence that once plagued Miami now hits the border towns of Mexico. Price America is willing to pay to sniff cheap cocaine.

[Note: Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded is an update of Cocaine Cowboys, originally released in 2006. It includes over one hour of new footage, interviews, and updates.]

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Written by niraj

October 22nd, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Trailer #3

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If I made writing my profession, I would be a total failure—ending-up penniless and dying of starvation. It would be a pitiful existence. So let’s watch the new trailer for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For instead!

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Written by niraj

June 11th, 2014 at 8:55 pm

My Must Watch Summer Movies for 2014

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Summer movie season will soon be upon us and one must make plans what to watch now, when to watch later, and what not to watch all. So I got hold of Entertainment Weekly’s Summer Move Preview issue:

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105 films have been listed and I’ve chosen to watch only four on their release.

1. Jupiter Ascending A science fiction film directed by the Wachowskis. What else do you need to know?

2. A Most Wanted Man The late Philip Seymour Hoffman in a movie based on a John le Carre novel and directed by Anton Corbijn, who gave us the lush, smoldering thriller The American.

3. Frank’s Miller Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Frank Miller is back to co-direct, bringing to life the next volume of his noirish Sin City series of graphic novels.

4. Lucy Scarlett Johansson and Luc Besson in one film. Obviously, I don’t need to say more.

These are the only movies I will spend my hard-earned money, schlep down to my local movie theatre, buy overpriced, bland-tasting snacks, sit in the dark and enjoy the show. I have ignored such obvious blockbusters like Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. They just don’t interest me except as RedBox rentals.

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True Detective: Philosophy and Television

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Interesting article about the nexus between philosophy and television, and how critics perceive it in a medium, until recently, shorn of any intellectual artifice.

The author gets right to the point.

True Detective is a well-acted and compellingly plotted mystery, which is held back by its occasional pretensions to intellectual seriousness. Above all, True Detective stands accused of engaging in philosophy.

I have not seen HBO’s True Detective, but I’ve heard of it. It’s a glacially paced police procedural about a 17-year chase for a serial killer. One of the main characters, Cohle, is bit of an odd duck. Cohle is a brooding detective with a sharp mind. He is also an introvert with a tendency to go on philosophical tangents. An example:

I have seen the finale of thousands of lives, man. Young, old, each one was so sure of their realness, that their sensory experience constituted a unique individual; purpose, meaning, so certain that they were more than just a biological puppet. Truth wills out, everybody sees once the strings are cut off all down.

And it’s these philosophical meanderings that have some critics calling the show ‘pretentious’ and ‘intellectual’ or outright nerdy. Television viewers, it seems, prefer television to be not only tasty but easily digestible—in essence, “show, but not tell.” If they wanted to see somebody wax philosophical they would watch some undecipherable European art film, preferably shot in black-and-white. And nobody watches those. This leads to the conclusion that philosophy, as a subject of study, is not taken seriously by the general public, let alone television critics.

Please read the article in its entirety. I can’t do it justice by summarizing it here. It’s well-written and a damn good read regardless if you like philosophy or not.

(via the week)

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Written by niraj

March 17th, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Thoughts On New Robocop

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Some thoughts on the new Robocop movie releasing on February 12th.

I’m not impressed.

First, after only watching the trailer, this modern reincarnation of Robocop looks like pure cheese. I know this film wants to stand on its own merits, but one cannot help make comparisons with the original, which was gritty, dark, and dystopian. I just don’t see it here.

Second, not that it was any surprise, but the film sought and received a PG-13 rating, something I’m sure the studio wanted in order to pander to the least common denominator of our film going community. Not to say all PG-13 rated films suck, but more often than not they do. Whenever I see a movie tagged with PG-13 I automatically assume it’s been dumbed down or cleaned up in order to park more fanny in the seats, including the increasingly important international market.

I don’t want to call this a movie a travesty quite yet, but it sure sounds like it.

Here’s the trailer and pass your own judgement:

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Written by niraj

January 22nd, 2014 at 11:56 am

TV Viewing for 2014

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Busy putting together a list of television shows I plan to watch in the first half of 2014. Not in any particular order:

  1. The Century of Warfare [DVD]
  2. The Shield: Season One [DVD]
  3. Rescue Me: Season One [DVD]
  4. Story of Film [Netflix]
  5. Dirt: Season One [DVD]
  6. Ancient Aliens: Season One [DVD]
  7. Homeland: Season One [DVD]
  8. I, Claudius [DVD]
  9. Edward The King [DVD]
  10. Justified: Season Three [DVD]
  11. Justified: Season Four [DVD]
  12. Dexter: Season Eight [DVD]
  13. Duck Dynasty: Season Three [DVD]
  14. Duck Dynasty: Season Four [DVD]
  15. House of Cards: Season Two [Netflix]
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Written by niraj

January 2nd, 2014 at 10:45 am

Movies Worth Watching for 2013?

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I’m interested in only watching two movies for rest of 2013. One being David O. Russell’s American Hustle.

The other being Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

Oddly both take place in New York and both involve con men. I like con men because they have to survive on their wits alone, while most thieves must rely on violence or the threat of it.

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Written by niraj

December 25th, 2013 at 10:34 am